Monday, January 18, 2016

Pa La-U Waterfall :: น้ำตกป่าละอู

Located some 87km from Pranburi (and 60km from Hua Hin), Pa La-U Waterfall (น้ำตกป่าละอู) in Kaeng Krachan National Park is only 12km or so from the border of Myanmar. GoogleMaps said so. Your cell service stops by the last 20km to destination. Eeeeks.

You don't need a guide to the waterfall. You will need a trustworthy driver to take you on the long drive there, buy the tickets (think it's 400BHT for foreigners; 100BHT for Thais), and lead you to the 'entrance'. The trail is kinda clear. A tiny wooden bridge, then up up up all the way via either sides of the stream. Or you could hop across rocks on steady feet to ascend. Takes roughly an hour to get to a reasonably nice pool to relax in. 1.5 hours if you're really slow.

Bear in mind that little English is spoken and there aren't any brochures or information boards in English. Do your homework before going okay, even though it's not a difficult walk. Wear proper shoes or at least sports sandals with good straps. I don't understand all those people who went in flip flops and looked like they had difficulty balancing on slippery rocks and slopes. Watched many fall. Luckily they didn't seem to have broken anything.

Going early in the morning ensures a less sweaty experience. It was cool within the forest and there didn't seem to be many mosquitoes. The only thing- butterflies. Hundreds and hundreds of them at the rocks over rushing water. And I'm really not a fan of butterflies. Yucks. DID NOT LIKE THEM FLITTING BY MY FACE. Had to resist swatting at them. Keeping my balance was of paramount importance.

The waterfall is categorized into 16 levels. There is a route map of sorts in Thai at the entrance depicting the 16 stops. Snap a photo and have it handy. The words are in Thai, but numbers are printed numeric. Easy peasy. It does give you a general idea of where you might have climbed to, and what comes next.

Visitors are recommended to stroll on till Level 5 or 6. This is the one that takes an hour to get to. At every level, there are signboards telling you where you're at. Park rangers are stationed at every level for visitor safety, but those rangers speak no English either. First aid facilities are pathetic. The nearest hospital with any kind of A&E provision in case of head trauma or severe injuries is 2.5 hours away in Hua Hin. You know how paranoid I am about treks. Brought my own first aid kit which included medical glue. :p The only thing I didn't bring, but would have if I'm on a full trek- walkie talkies.

Most sane people go up to Level 5 or 6 and chill out there with the fish nibbling at your toes. EIOOWWWW. But getting the ponds at Level 5 was easy. I didn't want to stay and swim in the waters though. Not with so many fish! Fresh water carp. No, I didn't think about eating them. We continued up to Level 10. Took another slow hour to do. Had gloves. WOOOOT! Hello again, 70-degree incline.

The last part involved some insane climbing and some swinging. But this is Thailand, not Indonesia. The routes up to wherever in Indonesia unaccessible by car or donkey, are usually a straight steep incline. Just a headlong bash through the treeline and all with no thoughts for safety. Thailand is thoughtful enough to include ropes as a form of support up the steeper slopes and rocks where it's tough to find a firm foothold.

All in all, a very enjoyable morning walk. All that green and blue. As always, am humbled in the midst of nature's embrace. It was with a mixture of glee, relief and gratitude when we emerged with nary a scratch.

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